How long does it take for caffeine to get out of your system

When we enjoy a cup of coffee, many of us often forget about the biological impact. We hear that it keeps us alert at the desk, fast in thought and a touch more mentally agile. However, that often leaves out some of the more challenging aspects of drinking coffee.

Take my own life as a tentative example of what this can do to you. I used to have, at least, a cup of coffee every hour and a half. Would it shock you to know that my bed time was usually around 2AM? I couldn’t sleep because of it. And I could never work out why until my early 20s.

I began researching the power of caffeine, and was shocked at just how powerful it is. With our body able to absorb 99% of a coffee in just 4 hours, I thought that I was more or less finished at that point; take a coffee, get the hit for 45 minutes, endure a 15-minute crash, and carry on.

However, an average coffee can last a whopping 6 hours in the system. So, on my previous lifestyle that involved as many as 6-7 cups of coffee per day, I could be having a full days’ worth of coffee crashes going on every single day. Terrifying, right?

If you are like me and you used to think that coffee was a wham-bam type scenario, I regret to inform you that it’s anything but; it’s far more powerful than this! 

Can coffee keep you awake at night?

Oh most certainly. If you have a coffee after your dinner, as many people do, you might find that your bedtime just went back about an hour. I usually find that coffee at night has a far more rampant effect on the body, partly due to the fact that I’m a late riser in the first place. So, I’m usually more awake at 6PM than I am at, say, 2PM, when most people are at the peak of their day.

It’s said that having an espresso at night is akin to putting the body clock back 30mins to an hour. This means that it’s very hard for you to get shut down at night, and it’s often going to leave you wired and wide awake for the best part of your day.

I used to do this all the time, and it’s quite a painful concept to undergo. I recommend avoiding coffee at night, and I’ll go into the reasons why shortly. 

How does caffeine affect your sleep?

For one, the obvious impact of caffeine is on the alertness of the brain. When your mind just won’t switch off, you can find it very hard to get to sleep at night. You’ll find that you are more alert and awake, and you might find it hard to turn off from a particular train of thought that you are having.

This is a common problem for many people, and one that can really make it hard for you to live a higher quality of life. Caffeine affects sleep in many ways, and can often make it super hard for you to sleep. For all the qualities that it offers you during the day, caffeine beyond a certain point at night will be bad for your ability to get to sleep.

This is the same for things like fizzy juice, by the way. Any kind of caffeinated drink post-dinner can often have quite a significant negative impact on how you feel when you get up.  

Why does coffee keep you awake?

The main reason why coffee tends to have us wired to the gills and unable to sleep is due to adenosine. Caffeine ‘binds’ together our adenosine receptors. This is because adenosine is what makes us feel tired after a busy day, as it slows down nerve cell activity. This also causes dilation of the blood vessels, which allows for more oxygen in during sleep thus improving our rate of recovery etc.

That being said, coffee will keep you awake for the same reason that it binds these receptors together. This means that your body is more likely to be able to avoid that feeling of drowsiness, which means that you are much more likely to stay awake and thus not feel the extent of your own tiredness.

How late is too late to have a coffee?

While we all have our own rules for this, and my rules in the past were clearly lax, some general guidelines do exist. For example, some people are strict and stop drinking coffee after 2PM. While I would find it very hard to do that, it’s the recommend stop-off point if you live a normal life.

If you are someone who is in the classic 9-5 job, then 2PM cut-offs make sense as you are likely in bed for 9-11PM. For people like myself who perhaps work from home or work later in the day, I recommend a 3-4PM cut-off. 

In terms of actual coffee volume, I recommend going down to around 4 cups of coffee per day. if you can drink less, then feel free. I’ve capped myself at 4, but often only have 3. If you can do the same, then you will be able to avoid thee penalty of having a ‘too late’ coffee.

The one that you need to cut out is the post-dinner coffee. It’s different if you are out for a meal or you have nothing to do the next day and thus can afford to stay up later. On a work night, though, avoid any coffee after 2-4PM depending on the hours that you work. Doing this has many benefits which I am sure you will get to enjoy once you do this.

I find it hard to cut back on late consumption, too, but you will notice a big difference if you can do so. 

How does caffeine give you more energy?

Caffeine gives us more energy in a few ways, most notably the fact that it releases catecholamine’s. This counts as stuff like adrenaline, which can make us feel more wired. It increases the speed of our heart rate, it vastly improves your ability to send blood to our muscles and it also makes it easier for our liver to release sugars into the bloodstream.

That gives us more energy, quite literally. It fuels the body to keep on going and this makes it very easy for you to enjoy a far more prosperous and engaging experience that should almost certainly hit the spot. If you are serious about making that wholesome change, then we almost certainly recommend that you start looking at changing your caffeine intake during the mornings for that extra zip.  

Paul Mason

coffee blogger

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